It’s the most wonderful time of the year again, and as companies start thinking about holiday celebrations and employee appreciation to boost morale, the biggest question is—how does one plan a corporate holiday party in 2021?
With factors to consider such as employee work schedules (remote, hybrid, or in-person), vaccination status, budgets, and more, it can be a challenge finding a solution that accommodates everyone.
However, we’ve found a few responses for how their company is planning celebrations, and we’ve also compiled a list of fun virtual and in-person holiday party ideas.
Let’s fire up the festivities!
How Other Companies Are Planning Holiday Events
After surveying numerous companies, responses are nearly equally split between virtual and in-person, with some companies opting to not hold celebrations at all. Some interesting responses include:
- One respondent said their company was planning a virtual event in December, and then a 2-3 day in-person event at the end of January (after the holidays) and people have been back from traveling for over 2 weeks.
- Another said that their company was using the funds as additional bonus money for employees.
- One respondent mentions that her company is planning an in-person event, but covid tests must be taken for those planning to attend.
- One respondent said, “Holiday party? Not in the nonprofit world!”
Things to Consider Before You Plan
Before you plan the work event of the year, there are some points to consider:
- Date and time (be mindful of time zones for remote workers!)
- In person event? Virtual? Both?
- Venue and capacity
- Attire (e.g. formal, casual, themed)
- Transportation (Uber/taxi slips? Bus? Carpool?)
- Company and government health policies for COVID-19
- Key people or teams for planning the event
- How many people will attend the event (Will the event be divided up by teams/divisions to minimize contact?)
Virtual Holiday Party Ideas
Ugly sweater competitions, takeout Secret Santa, virtual mixology classes, and more! For companies opting to celebrate with employees virtually, there are numerous activities that’ll connect employees and bring on the festive mood, wherever they are.
Third Party Hosting Platforms and Services
What service you use will likely depend on which activities you choose, but here are some platforms and services to look into: TeamBonding – Software/service that provides team building activities BOOMBOX Events – event platform Outback Team Building – team building & training solutions for in-person and virtual groups
Food and Drink
Catering food to remote employees can be a logistics challenge! From being allergy-aware to figuring out which cuisine works best, here are some of our solutions:
- Takeout Secret Santa
Like anonymous gifting through Secret Santa, employees can use a food delivery service (e.g. UberEats, SkiptheDishes, Foodora, etc.) to send their recipient a meal!
Gather addresses and contact information for those interested in participating, and any allergies they might have. Set budget limits and a time all orders must be delivered by.
- Send restaurant packages
For remote workers that live in the same city or country, sending restaurant sampler packages might be worth looking into!
For example, with bakery restaurant locations across North America, Milk Bar can send boxes of cakes, cookies, pies, cake truffles, and more to employees.
- Send cooking kits
For a fun hands-on approach, cooking kits include ingredients that employees need to make a delicious home-cooked meal!
- Italian Gourmet Kit – includes marinara Sauce, penne, breadsticks
- Spanish Gourmet Kit – includes tortilla chips, salsa, chile con queso, and chorizo
- BBQ Gourmet Kit – includes 2 types of BBQ sauce, himalayan salt, and almonds
- Send dining gift cards
Employees can get a dining gift card of their choice to use.
- Cooking classes
With endless food and drink classes available, such as cheese board making and gingerbread making, there’ll be something for every group!
Employees can vote on which class they’d like to do. For example, if cheese board making was voted most popular, personalized cheese boards can be sent to employees as well.
- Ugly sweater competition
Send employees a holiday sweater decorating kit and host a competition to see who can make the best sweater over Zoom!
- Art sessions
Ignite or reignite a passion for art through a drawing session, featuring an artist/cartoonist to teach participants how to draw holiday-themed images over Zoom.
- Pet showcase
Compile a slideshow of employee pets to share over a virtual party. Bonus points if the pets are in holiday clothes!
- Virtual cooking class
Ask for what type of food the participants want to cook, send out meal kits, and have a host give a virtual cooking class to help employees prepare a holiday meal!
- Virtual mixology
Send mixology kits to participants, bring in a virtual host for a learning session, and get ready to enjoy cocktails all holiday long.
- Holiday tradition show and tell
With many holiday traditions happening in December around the world (e.g. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka), this is a chance for employees to share their holiday traditions and share pictures of their holiday events.
- Bring in a special guest
Whether it’s a well-known industry professional or a celebrity cameo purchased through Cameo, special guests can get participants guessing and excited for the party!
- Holiday-themed virtual escape room
Virtual escape rooms are a fun team-bonding exercise, and with winter-themed challenges to complete, this will get participants in a festive mood! Some challenge ideas include: helping Santa find the Christmas present he lost from his sleigh, saving Santa’s toy shop, exploring holiday traditions around the world, etc.
Looking to send a curated gift kit to employees? Take a look at our ideas for holiday gift kits!
In-Person Holiday Party Ideas
Celebrating the holidays in-person after nearly 2 years of pandemic shutdowns is both exciting and nerve wracking! With so many activities to choose from, socializing with and meeting colleagues face-to-face again is a much needed break from virtual meetings for work.
However, in-person events can present logistics and COVID challenges. Our best advice is to check company and government health policies prior to planning.
Here are some in-person event ideas!
Food and Drink
- Food truck rentals
- Restaurant/buffet (Indoor dining at restaurants may have party limits and mask restrictions, be sure to research!)
Drinks: holiday-themed cocktails, open bar
1. Gift exchange
Whether through a Secret Santa or White Elephant program, gift exchanges can make for a fun surprise. And who knows? Maybe someone will get a gift they didn’t know they needed!
2. Holiday bingo
Liven up your party with holiday themed bingo cards featuring holiday movies, music, and culture! This is also virtual party-friendly.
3. Tree decorating competition
Organize a table of mini trees and different decorations (e.g. tinsel, ornaments, lights) for employees to deck their Christmas tree, and then have a contest to see who decorated theirs the best!
4. Pet-friendly party
Pets have kept employees company for the entirety of the pandemic, and what better way to celebrate them than to have them join in on the party! Provide pet-friendly snacks and water bowls to ensure no guest is left hungry or dehydrated after play!
Before organizing a pet-friendly party, be aware of any employee allergies.
5. Showcase holiday traditions around the world
Exploring holiday traditions (e.g. Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ōmisoka) around the world is a chance for employees to showcase their heritage and culture, and any other fun stories they have about the holidays growing up.
6. Card making
For those who want to personalize or make their holiday cards, bringing in a professional artist or calligrapher for a teaching session can be valuable and allow for creative exploration!
7. Holiday photo booth
Whether through a rental booth or photographer, photo booths are a great way for employees to have tangible evidence of fun moments with colleagues.
8. Christmas cocktail mixology
Mulled wine, boozy eggnog, cranberry old fashioned—what would the holidays be without a little bit of, *ahem*, festive spirit? Mixology classes are a gift that keeps on giving, and are skills that can be used all year round!
9. Cookie decorating class
From outlining to flooding, cookie decorating is a great way to get festive and creative. As a bonus, decorated cookies make great gifts!
10. Gingerbread house decorating contest
Nothing like a good old fashioned gingerbread house decorating contest! Send decorating kits, and create dompetition categories such as most creative, most delicious-looking, largest structure, and most festive.
11. Cooking lessons
The holidays are a time to share food with family, friends, and others. For those who are looking to up their cooking game, cooking lessons just might help achieve a perfect prime rib roast!
As a bonus fun activity, employees can share their favourite recipes for the compilation of a corporate cookbook.
12. Merry movie night
Playing holiday movies such as Home Alone, Elf, The Santa Clause, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and more is a quick way to get anyone into the holiday spirit. This can be done at the office, or for an elevated experience, consider renting out a movie theatre.
As well, there can be a vote on whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie!
Which holiday idea will you choose to celebrate with?